Lucy Richardson Janoush moved back to the Mississippi Delta from Washington, D.C., in part so she could slow things down. She had lived in the nation’s capital for five years, working as a legislative assistant for congressmen Jamie Whitten and David Bowen and had a taste for the hectic culture in the corridors of power.
“I wanted to get out of the fast lane,” Janoush said. “There, I didn’t even know my neighbors — here, I know everybody.”
But that familiarity is more than just a social perk — it is a tool for getting things done.
Consider the Cleveland Music Foundation, for which Janoush serves as board president. When the organization’s bid to open a local outpost of the GRAMMY Museum was accepted, Janoush and her board hopped on the phone with leaders of the museum’s first location in Los Angeles. The first step, they were told, would be to incorporate as a nonprofit.
“And we’d already done that,” Janoush said. “I don’t think we could get this museum together (otherwise) — not at the speed we did.”
It’s just a difference in cultures: L.A., she says, is all traffic—“and they meet too much. We don’t talk about things, we just do.” Janoush is quick to clarify that this is her perception of L.A. in general; her experience collaborating with the L.A.-based GRAMMY Museum has been delightful.
With her no-nonsense attitude, Janoush takes after her grandmother, who was a tractor dealer in the 1940s. Women in business were rare back then — especially in the Delta.
“That taught me if I made up my mind, I could do whatever I wanted,” Janoush said. “Being a female was not an excuse.”
Such insights powered an impressive career. After returning to Mississippi, she worked in the public sector, first with the South Delta Planning and Development District in Greenville and, then, as the executive vice president of the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Development Foundation.
Later, Janoush worked as a human resources manager for three major Delta corporations: Brandywine Foods, Inc., a start-up poultry processor; JANTRAN Inc., a river-towing company; and Baxter Healthcare Corporation.
“I spent my career being around people,” Janoush said. “Positive people doing positive things. Nothing makes me happier than seeing another person happy.”
Her decision to leave Washington certainly made one person happy. In fact, as much as she was ready for a slower pace, it was love that brought her back to the Delta.
“I knew that if I was ever going to get married, (longtime beau) Paul Janoush would be the one,” Lucy said. “And if I didn’t come here, it wasn’t going to happen.”
It did happen, and now the couple has two children — Will, 32, and Mary Parker, 21 — and two grandchildren.
Janoush has made significant contributions to Cleveland and the Delta through her community service. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi and has been president of a number of organizations, including the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce, the Cleveland Junior Auxiliary and the local United Way.
A long life of leadership has, over the past year, delivered a new challenge: she was recently diagnosed with lung cancer.
“It’s the only big project I didn’t sign up for,” she said.
Her reaction was simply disappointment.
“I’m too busy for this,” she thought. “I still have so many things I love to do.”
Janoush still travels to Houston every few weeks for treatment. And — not surprising if you know her — there is a prize in this struggle: it’s taught Janoush to take care of herself. Previously, she said, she would rearrange her life around others’ needs. Now, nothing will keep her from Houston, treatment and her fierce grip on life.
In 2011, three years after she retired, Janoush was asked to join the board of the Cleveland Music Foundation, which owns and operates the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi.
“They probably thought I was the only one dumb enough to do it,” she said with a smile.
More likely, the board knew her record of getting results. Under her leadership, the foundation raised $20 million to open the 28,000-square-foot museum, which opened last March.
After the museum opened, its driveway was named in her honor. And, last year, she was selected as Delta State University’s Alumnus of the Year (she graduated in 1978, magna cum laude, with a bachelor’s degree in English). This year the Mississippi Arts Commission will recognize her as an Arts Patron with a Governor’s Arts Award.
While Janoush was raised in an art-loving family, it was her mother and siblings who had the artistic talent.
“I just know how to appreciate it,” she said.
Her community, including Delta State University President William LaForge, recognizes Janoush’s contribution.
“Lucy’s dedication and hard work, her vision and passion, her community relations and fundraising prowess, and her focus on bringing a world-class enterprise to our state are without question the most important ingredients that made this massive, game-changing project a reality,” LaForge said in his letter of support for Janoush’s Governor’s Arts Award nomination.
Photos by Rory Doyle